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New Year, New Writing Goals – Part 1

Buried in the Slushpile

The Earth has spun around the Sun one more time, and you know what that means.

Time to restart our goals for the year.

The thing is, we often don’t make goals we can actually accomplish. At least, I used to make goals that I couldn’t actually accomplish. So a while back I sat down and figured out the difference between the goals I achieved and the ones that sort of fell away. And I realized that all the goals that worked were the result of answering 3 different questions. Today, we’re going to focus on the first one.

Question 1: What do I want?

So, first off, what do I want?

This is where you figure out your actual goal. But, we’re not going to write just anything here.

We want goals that are realistic. I would love to write 24 books this year. And although that goal might be entirely possible for someone like PJ Hoover (one of my CBAY authors), it’s entirely unrealistic for me.

You also want something that is actually achievable. To use my example before, I simply cannot write 24 books in one year, even if I only write picture books. I don’t write daily. Last year I only managed 84,000 words for the year, right at ½ of my original goal.

This is a spreadsheet with bar charts showing goal for word count and how far short I came each month. It's black text with orange and blue charts. The blue is words written and orange is amount remaining to reach goal.

So, obviously, I’ll be scaling down my word count goal to 90,000 words this year. It’s a little more than I wrote last year, so it’s growth, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me to achieve.

And then once you have realistic goals you can actually achieve, then you want goals that are actionable. For example, I would love to win the lottery. That would be amazing. But that’s not something I can actively work towards. Yes, I can buy a ticket, but then everything else is up to chance. Winning the lottery (since I’m not a movie level criminal with the ability to cheat the system) is not something I can work towards. It’s outside my control.

But the same token, getting an agent this year is not a good goal, because it too is outside my control. I can’t control what agents are looking for in manuscripts and clients right now. I can’t control the number of submissions they get and how tired they might be when they get to mine.  And as someone who used to get those submissions and read through the slush pile, I can also tell you that I can’t control the mood the agents will be in when they pick up my query. And yes. That does affect things.

So a better goal is something like: start querying. Yes, it will help me towards my dream of getting an agent, but a goal like Start Querying is one that is completely in my control. I determine whether or not I start that journey. I make the query letter, I do the research, I send those queries out. So, I am the one who the success of the goal depends on, not someone else like an agent.

Finally, consider why you want the goal that you are working towards. For example, I could have a goal of wanting to make a million dollars this year. I mean, it’s debatable how realistic or achievable this is, but it’s definitely actionable. But why do I want a million dollars? If the answer is so I can travel, then maybe the goal should be to travel more. But even then I might want to consider my motivation some more. Why do I want to travel? Where? What is it I want to do? If the answer is actually I want to go to Bali and to a ball in Vienna, then maybe instead of the goal: make a million dollars, I need to have 2 goals: Go to Bali and Go to a ball in Vienna.

So, now, shut your eyes and ask yourself:

What do I want?

And then write it down.

(We don’t want to forget our goals!)

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